COMMENTARY — Hayden High School’s march to its first-ever state championship in Class 5A softball — and the first AHSAA championship in any sport in the school’s history — was certainly a team effort, without a doubt. There were timely hits from Brooke Meadows and Katie Parr, and standing-ovation catches by outfielders like Meleah Hargett.
But if there is one position on a fast-pitch softball team where a single player can dominate the opposition, it is in the pitching circle. And that is precisely what Caitlin Kirkland did, as she held opposing hitters at bay throughout the season, but particularly in the playoffs.
It’s a skill that “Kirky” has possesses throughout her career with the Wildcats, but truly mastered in her final season. Before this year, Kirkland was simply one of two or three pitchers that John Simmons could call on. But in 2013, she was the go-to girl — period. Small wonder that she was the pick for the 5A State Tournament’s most valuable player.
For her outstanding performance in her senior season, The North Jefferson News selects Caitlin Kirkland as our 2013 Female Athlete of the Year.
While her efforts on the diamond set her apart from Hayden’s foes, her pick as our top athlete was not a slam dunk. There were several others who merited our attention as well:
- Amanda Dean, Mortimer Jordan: The best female track and field athlete the Blue Devils have seen in many years, winning medals in the AHSAA outdoor and indoor meets, as well as placing in the state heptathlon finals.
- Chelsey Deloney, Gardendale: An excellent athlete in two sports for the Rockets, Deloney was a force in the paint for basketball, and was also a big hitter on the softball diamond.
- Katie Parr, Hayden: Much like Deloney (and playing the same positions), Parr provided a big bat in softball plus regular stints as a pitcher, and was greatly improved as the Wildcat center in hoops. Unlike the rest, Parr will be back for another season in 2013-14.
The Athlete of the Year was selected by the NJN in consultation with local coaches.